The Bible does not have a specific term for “sexual assault,” but it clearly condemns any form of sexual violence or abuse. Scripture emphasizes the sacredness of the human body and the importance of respecting physical boundaries. While the Bible does not provide detailed legal guidelines about sexual crimes, it lays down fundamental ethical principles that protect human dignity and prohibit non-consensual sexual acts.
Human beings are made in God’s image
A foundational reason why Scripture denounces sexual assault is that human beings are made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” To violate another person sexually is to deface the very likeness of God in that individual. Their innate worth and value as an image-bearer is debased.
The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
The New Testament refers to the human body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Just as the temple in the Old Testament was the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, now the Spirit of God resides in the bodies of believers in Jesus Christ. Defiling someone’s body through sexual assault is akin to profaning a holy sanctuary.
Love requires respect for others
Jesus commanded his followers to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:39). Love seeks the good of others and refuses to cause harm. Forcing oneself sexually on another human being is a gross violation of Jesus’ command to love. The apostle Paul exhorted believers to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19). Sexual violence destroys peace and tears down human relationships.
The Golden Rule prohibits abuse
In what is known as the Golden Rule, Jesus taught, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Applying this principle means people should only engage in sexual activity that is caring, consensual and respectful. No one wants to be sexually abused. Following the Golden Rule requires respecting others’ consent and physical autonomy.
God cares for the vulnerable
Throughout Scripture, God shows special concern for protecting the vulnerable from oppression and violence. Laws in the Old Testament provided provisions for the poor, orphans, widows, foreigners and other marginalized groups (Deuteronomy 24:17; Zechariah 7:10). As noted below, rape victims were legally protected. Since sexual assault disproportionately affects the vulnerable, and the trauma can scar victims emotionally and spiritually for life, it is particularly egregious in God’s eyes.
Rape was punishable in the law of Moses
In the Law of Moses, the act of rape was considered a serious criminal offense. According to Deuteronomy 22:25-27, if a man raped a betrothed woman in the countryside where she could not call for help, the man alone was put to death. This underscored that the responsibility fell completely on the rapist, not the victim. The law made no moral distinction between a consensual and non-consensual sexual act outside of marriage—both required the death penalty (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). The reason for this seems to be that in ancient Israel, a woman’s virginity was her value and marriageability. The rapist had stolen and damaged goods belonging to the woman’s husband-to-be. So the law punished the rapist, but also viewed the victim as “defiled” so that she could not marry (Deuteronomy 22: 13-21).
Jesus showed mercy to an adulteress
In the New Testament, the religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery and wanted to stone her to death (John 8:3-11). This was a setup intended to trap Jesus. Instead of condemning the woman, Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of her accusers and sent them away. His famous words to her were, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?… Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Jesus showed mercy and gave her an opportunity to change, while not compromising that adultery is morally wrong. His gracious response to sexual sin contrasts with the brutality of sexual assault.
The prophets decried rape as a symbol of injustice
Several Old Testament prophets used the image of rape as a metaphor for how corrupt leaders had oppressed the vulnerable in Israelite society. Ezekiel 16 depicts Jerusalem as an abandoned infant whom the Lord adopted and cared for. But she turned to idolatry and spiritual adultery, provoking God’s judgment. Verse 35 says, “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord… Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them.” The depiction of Israel as an unfaithful prostitute highlights how far the nation strayed from its covenant with God.
The book of Zechariah 14:2 warns that “women shall be raped” when God punishes the nations that attacked Jerusalem. Amos 1:13 denounces the Ammonites “because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead.” In each case, rape symbolized the brutality of the oppressors and cried out for justice. The prophets used this shocking metaphor because in their historical context, victors often raped and mistreated women of conquered peoples. Scripture roundly condemns this practice.
Holiness requires sexual self-control
The Bible frequently urges personal holiness and sexual self-control. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 states that “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” Sexual assault completely ignores these biblical values. It is an act of violence, not holiness or honor.Scripture teaches that believers must subdue fleshly desires and not let sin reign over their moral choices (Romans 6:12). 1 Peter 2:11 exhorts, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Sexual assault indulges corrupt passions at the victim’s expense.
Biblical justice and healing for victims
The Bible validates that sexual assault causes deep trauma and stigma for victims. 2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar. Afterwards “She put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.” Losing her virginity made Tamar feel ruined and worthless in that culture. The story shows how sexual abuse can devastate victims emotionally and spiritually.
Scripture upholds justice against further victimization. Exodus 22:16-17 says that if a man seduced a virgin, he had to marry her and pay the bride-price, never allowed to divorce her. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 made the man pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and marry her without possibility of divorce. This attempted to ensure the woman was cared for, and the man took responsibility for his actions. While these laws are outdated, they reveal how God hates sexual exploitation, and seeks restitution and security for victims in their context.
The Bible also offers hope of healing for victims. Psalm 147:2-3 says the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” As believers, we can pray for God to comfort women violated by sexual assault, and gently help them find wholeness in Christ again.
Forgiveness does not remove consequences for offenders
God is always ready to forgive sexual sin through Jesus Christ when the sinner repents (1 John 1:9). Even offenders can find redemption in Christ (see the story of Mary Magdalene in Luke 7:36-50). However, forgiveness does not remove all earthly consequences of the sin or preclude church discipline and just punishment under the law. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 shows that the church still exercised discipline towards a man committing incest, even though he was forgiven eternally. Too often, “forgiveness” has been distorted into silence that allows sexual abuse to quietly continue. But repentance and forgiveness do not remove the need for justice, accountability measures, and common sense precautions to prevent recurrence.
Marriage relationship protects against sexual sin
Hebrews 13:4 upholds that “the marriage bed is undefiled” and morally honorable before God. Marriage is the safeguarded context for sexual relations. In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, spouses have a duty to fulfill each other’s sexual needs. This protects against sexual temptation and assault by providing a legitimate outlet for physical intimacy. But even within marriage, Scripture never condones any sort of forced relations, which would betray the holy union. The boundaries of consent apply regardless.
In conclusion, from start to finish, the Bible celebrates human dignity and sexuality while prohibiting any violation or abuse of others. Sexual assault is never justified; it inflicts deep wounds and goes against everything Scripture teaches about love for neighbor, care for the vulnerable, holiness, justice and living as covenant community. At the same time, the Bible offers forgiveness, comfort and hope for all who have been victimized by such grievous sins.